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The recontextualisation of French gender-inclusive writing: brand activism and the loss of political meaning

French gender-inclusive writing practices (écriture inclusive, hereafter EI), which emerged from anarchist groups in the early 2000s, have in recent years become a highly debated topic in French society. As a result, these practices have left the sphere of radical leftist groups, and have begun to be integrated into the mainstream of modern France: news outlets, politicians, corporates and brands have started using these practices in official communication, as a way of indexing a progressive, leftist identity and to promote their attachment to values such as diversity and inclusivity. Whilst this may be considered a legitimate effort towards achieving gender equality, however, the radical connotation initially associated with these practices has become watered down, EI now being seen as a mere tool for inclusivity whilst its radical origins slowly become forgotten. As part of my dissertation, I am making an argument for the loss of EI’s radical social meanings, through a series of case studies both reviewing uses of EI in corporate advertisement and political marketing, as well as exploring similar phenomena in other languages and social contexts, to show how EI’s integration into corporate and political branding has, whilst promoting gender equality, made it into a less politically threatening and more liberal practice.